Look Away

However hard you try, stuff sometimes is out of your hands. That’s tough to rationalise as a woman who, most of the time, finds it hard to function without a measure of notional control. It asks increasing amounts of you not simply as a person, but as an artist. I call myself a poet when it suits me, but there are other strings to this bow: writer, novelist, short story writer, photographer and, quite possibly, performer.

That last one’s still being played with: poetry needs to be read, aloud. It should be the notional means by which both passion and expression are properly expressed. I’ve only done it once with an audience, but it happens every time a new set of poems are produced. To make sure they ‘sound’ right and my voice is correct, everything needs to be spoken, with passion

This is when I allow myself to fail as a poet.

I can allow a succession of TED speakers tell me how failure matters on the way to success. People have famous people on podcasts talking about failing. It’s a means by which you are allowed to open yourself to being critical of development. It is looking at work and knowing that yes, you can do more. However, what you define as a failure in a  larger sense is utterly and totally subjective.

It’s taken over two years to actually find my real voice, one that matters most to me. More and more, expectation arises is to write a certain way, or to a specific brief, and to end up with something that isn’t true to me, rather something that’s saleable. I’m trying to do this to make other people notice me, and that’s exactly not the way to do the job. I have failed myself on multiple levels, and now it has to stop.

I should be writing for myself, first and foremost. A very good Social media mutual is about to embark on a journey that reminded me of this fact today: why you write is as important as the subject matter, and the reasons why you choose to focus on particular subjects and interests. When I write about things that are important to me, that are passionate points of contention, the work is better.

How did I forget this? Well, that’s easy. My life in poetry has become the mental equivalent of a Supercut: to fit everything in, you just remember the best bits of everything, whilst the rest of the output is relegated. I want to produce this brilliant, aurally arresting selection of works, all carefully intercut, but totally fail to grasp that by doing so real goodness is diluted.

It is time to go back to my roots.

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The last four poems written are probably my best work to date. This is how I need to work moving forward: passion, honestly and personal accountability. Anything else, quite honestly, is a waste of my time and effort right now.

Let’s try and do this right.

Feeling Groovy

The hard work is now done: 24 poems are ‘completed’ for my Places of Poetry #EndOfTheFear project. There will now be a much needed period of Not Thinking About Poetry At All before I begin the last pass edit/polish process. During that time the online portion of affairs will be organised, in anticipation of uploading the pieces to the ‘official’ website. Without getting too smug, I’m incredibly pleased with what’s been produced.

End of the Fear #1

When the idea first germinated, I had no idea of how much personally I’d be affected not just by subject matter, but the places themselves. Nearly all of these poems have been in part written at the places they’re matched with, and doing so ‘in situ’ has quite fundamentally altered the process of how I approach writing. My writing style is also significantly different now to the way it was when this journey began.

The plan remains that not only will I offer some history behind each of the chosen locations on my own website, but a peek into the creative motivations of each piece, so won’t go into too much detail here as a result. Needless to say the most satisfying poems undoubtedly come from those areas where my mental and physical interests connect most strongly.

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Most satisfying of all however has been the photography process, which has netted over 500 pictures of the borough, a useful and satisfying pool of visual accompaniment. It’s made me realise that perhaps, the most important part of process involves doing stuff that makes me happy. If one change is made to daily life as a result of all this it will be to find hobbies that keep that sense of satisfaction alive, and that’s already being worked on.

There’ll be no blog on Wednesday this week, as I’m off to the West Country for a funeral, but we’ll be back on Friday with some early details of what the website portion of proceedings will look like when the Project is complete.

I’ll see you then.

Summer Breeze

We interrupt the process of editing and website development with a brief post to state that yes, everything is still on schedule, despite the fact I’ll need to be in Somerset next week for two days for my mother in law’s funeral. The plan remains that the first of the poetry will go up on the Places of Poetry site starting the 17th and unless summat really unexpected takes place, that is where we are heading.

Needless to say, the next four days will be full of hard work. I’ll report in on Monday when I’m done.

Moving Right Along

The hardest part of this week’s Project goals is now completed. The beginning of #EndOfTheFear had a rough idea of locations, vague grasp of titles: there are now fragments of poems to insert onto spaces. I can create a working document where everything lives and can be referred to. There’s also the vaguest ideas of how we do the web side of things (and space in which to place it) which means next up it’s the photography element of proceedings to consider.

A couple of places already have pictures taken, selection of images to choose from. Next week, there’s a plan in place on my wall where we’ll be putting together geographically-close locations, getting to them early each day to take pictures. The plan is to have completed photos by lunchtime (travelling to places with a liquid breakfast after the School run) and then write poetry inspired by both places and pictures.

Writing the poems is happening in pieces every day. There’s already a tenable narrative thread front and centre, feelings to explore and expand upon, with proof that working in the locations gives a real sense of what matters and feels right at this point. I’ve taken a break today to write some poems for the Mental Health Foundation’s ‘Body Image’ week starting on the 12th, which was a lovely change of pace.

All that needs to happen now is an awful lot of legwork.

All That Jazz

On the first day of May, start of my ’24 Poems about Southend’ project #EndOfTheFear I took this Tweet as a good omen:

This being half a week, with a Bank Holiday tacked on at the start of next week, had been initially earmarked in my planning as Legwork. I may have lived in Southend for decades, but for a fair portion of the last 10 years I was genuinely scared to even go out my front door. A lot has changed, this mind was vaguely aware of. Today has taught me not just how much is different, but how I have altered too.

I went to the place where main town Library used to be… except it’s not there any more and instead there’s a Gallery, which hosts exhibitions such as the Sub Cultures one above. It taught me that a band I’d always thought were Southend based were indeed formed here, their album cover that’s ingrained into memory that stretch of road between here and London I always thought it was.

That however is nothing compared to the surprise I got going downstairs in the same building and discovering The Jazz Centre (UK) has been there for over two years. I’m partly embarrassed then staggered into disbelief that a place like this, which I have a real, personal interest in, could exist literally on my front door without realising that was the case. I’ll be off there again next week to write a poem.

However, this got me no closer to working out where they’d moved the Library. Eventually I found it, in a space that used to be a car park, and have brought home some selected reading on places and people of the town so that I may open my brain to the potential possibilities history can offer in writing poetry. Change has already wrought a profound effect on that progress: my initial plan is gonna need some revision.

Once upon a time this would have caused me considerable stress, having spent so long pulling disparate ideas together. Not any more. Now this shift in course feels like natural, correct progression, means by which both project and I will evolve as time goes on. It means that across the weekend we’ll look again at potential sites to dedicate poetry to and quite possibly amend a few.

I’m already looking forward to my destination tomorrow in anticipation.

F.E.A.R

Friday was my ‘soft-launch’ day for this project, which has been in planning, it must be said, since January. We’ve already discussed that daily poetry will vanish as a result, because let’s be honest, this requires a lot of thought, and not an inconsiderable amount of legwork. We’ll be doing the proper launch on Wednesday, where I’ll be at the local Library, starting a bit of essential historical background research.

All will be shared via Twitter, Instagram and blog, because that’s how these things work.

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You can also expect a reduction in the amount of floral pictures and of the sky. It’s time to find favourite architecture, of which there is an awful lot in the borough, plus landscapes and estuary views. I get to go down the pier for utterly legitimate business reasons and there will be some personal history revealed along the way. I’ve lived here since I was 22, after all. This town is very much in my blood.

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For my regular readers, many of these images will be familiar. These are places you’ll have seen before. What will be new is the poetry that accompanies them.

I’ll see you on Monday as months of planning finally comes to fruition.

First Steps

A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct…

Frank Herbert, DUNE

I’ve been planning a particular project now for several months. As the launch date approaches, a moment or two of self-doubt is inevitable. Have I considered everything in terms of variables? Are my timescales realistic? What if nobody is interested? In this case, however, the results won’t be measured by traditional notions of success, at least not by me. I’ve already overachieved wildly. This is new, glorious territory.

To accommodate the new direction, for the entirety of May my normal working output will alter. Instead of daily poetry (9am and 5pm) you’ll instead get a new hashtag to follow: #EndOfTheFear. What this means right now remains a surprise, you’ll need to come back here next week to get the full rundown. Both Narrating and Soundtracking playlists remain unchanged, and there’s still a short story to read along with.

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This coming week therefore is a lot of legwork and preparation. Because of the way the month falls (2 days in April/3 days in May next week) there’ll also be a lack of poetry. There’s a very good reason for this: again, it’ll become apparent soon enough. Once upon a time I’d have tried to keep doing everything uninterrupted, but I’m smarter than that now. Some things must be put on hold, to dedicate full focus on larger aims.

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Once upon a time, everything just happened in my life. As I explained on Friday, a lot’s improved since the start of the year. Undoubtedly a lot of it is to do with how the process of work is approached: organisation, planning, realistic goals all factor into the equation. Occasionally, something unexpectedly brilliant happens and you realise that maybe, just maybe, this is the right path all along.

Strap in, folks. Things are about to get amazing.